If you were compliant, whether from fear or free will, you had the privilege of being in the safe majority with your parents. If you disagreed with your parents or were defiant, you understood the shame and loneliness of dissention.
What side were your parents on?
Were they ‘law abiding citizens’ who did what they were supposed to, earning success in the mainstream or were they outliers on the fringe, making their way by marching to the beat of their own drum? I bet their choice is reflected in your choices as well.
Conformity is safe because there’s power in numbers. You can throw stones with far less consequences because you have a majority and people who stand beside and behind you. Conformity has a larger voice which implies truth and being right, and prides itself on targeting and excluding those who disagree.
Dissention is unsafe and risky, often standing alone. The voice of dissent is rarely seen as speaking up, instead perceived as speaking against and gets shut down or drown out by those with ‘the truth’. The minority are shunned as liars, deceiving, uninformed, selfish and complaining even while trying to respectfully disagree, offer alternative options or stand for different values.
It’s playing out at home with your teen every day.
Teens are the poster children for the voice of dissention! They disagree with your rules, your habits, the way you talk, dress, breathe, all of it!
What if your teen isn’t saying NO to you, they’re trying to say YES to who they’re becoming and that feels like dissention? But the more they try to differentiate themselves, the weight of
conformity (expectations, discipline, etc.) becomes suffocating so they fight harder against it, or worse, they deny or abandon themselves to fit in and feel loved.
There was no room for my voice, my truth.
I was the voice of dissention in my family, the black sheep who became the scape goat when things were uncomfortable, something got lost or broken. I was the target of my parent’s shame, humiliation, and anger because even when I tried, I wasn’t like them. When I wouldn’t tolerate what I knew was wrong to be in the safe majority, I stood alone.
Although my sister and I were close, she was safe in the exclusive majority for most of our teen years, making it permissible for her to verbally target me by conforming to my parent’s beliefs about me and mimicking their behaviour.
I still have nightmares about it.
I resist conformity and almost always side with the underdog because I relate to the pain and courage of standing alone, fighting alone. I still have nightmares about not being heard – there’s a dire situation where I see what’s going to happen but no one will listen, and I wake up just as the bad situation begins.
I felt like I didn’t belong and carried that pain of not being good enough, smart enough, whatever enough until only recently. Now I belong to and with myself with all my ‘enoughs’, and I have friends who don’t require me to conform to be liked, they welcome me as I am.
“Without dissent you have no innovation or diversity.” – Dr. Brené Brown
Is there room for dissention in your family culture? Is it safe to disagree or be different?
Families that celebrate and embrace their differences, have curious conversations about different opinions and beliefs and are inclusive of diversity, creating psychological and emotional safety, the foundations for meaningful connection.
Conformity and dissention are both critical parts of a healthy global culture and they’re playing out in big and small ways in your home. Whatever your teen perceives as your family’s stance, and whichever side they personally connect with impacts all their relationships, work choices, political affiliations, everything.
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